The Volcano and the Earthquake, Earth’s Demons of Destruction.
To most of us, dwellers upon the face of the earth, this terrestrial sphere is quite a comfortable place of residence. The forces of Nature everywhere and at all times surround us, forces capable, if loosened from their bonds, of bringing death and destruction to man and the work of his hands. But usually they are mild and beneficent in their action, not agents of destruction and lords of elemental misrule. The air, without whose presence we could not survive a minute, is usually a pleasant companion, now resting about us in soft calm, now passing by in mild breezes. The alternation of summer and winter is to us generally an agreeable relief from the monotony of a uniform climate. The variation from sunlight to cloud, from dry weather to rainfall, is equally viewed as a pleasant escape from the weariness of too great fixity of natural conditions. The change from day to night, from hours of activity to hours of slumber, are other agreeable variations in the events of our daily life. In short, a great pendulum seems to be swinging above us, held in Nature’s kindly hand, and adapting its movements to our best good and highest enjoyment.
But has Nature,—if we are justified in personifying the laws and forces of the universe,—has mother Nature really our pleasure and benefit in mind, or does she merely suffer us to enjoy life like so many summer insects, until she is in the mood to sweep us like leaves from her path? It must seem the latter to many of the inhabitants of the earth, especially to the dwellers in certain ill-conditioned regions. For all the beneficent powers above named may at a moment’s notice change to destructive ones.
The wind, for instance, is a demon in chains. At times it breaks its fetters and rushes on in mad fury, rending and destroying, and sweeping such trifles as cities and those who dwell therein to common ruin. Sunshine and rain are subject to like wild caprices. The sun may pour down burning rays for weeks and months together, scorching the fertile fields, drying up the life-giving streams, bringing famine and misery to lands of plenty and comfort, almost making the blood to boil in our veins. Its antithesis, the rainstorm, is at times a still more terrible visitant. From the dense clouds pour frightful floods, rushing down the lofty hills, sweeping over fertile plains, overflowing broad river valleys, and, wherever they go, leaving terror and death in their path. We may say the same of the alternation of the seasons. Summer, while looked forward to with joyous anticipation, may bring us only suffering by its too ardent grasp; and winter, often welcomed with like pleasurable anticipations, may prove a period of terror from cold and destitution.